Rooted in faith or rooted in Hamas?
On the night of Saturday, November 8, the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of CAIR held its 20th Anniversary Banquet at the Santa Clara Convention Center. It was fitting that two out of three of the event’s featured speakers have been associated with terrorism, as 20 years ago CAIR was founded as a main component of a Palestinian terrorist enterprise inside the United States.
CAIR or the Council on American-Islamic Relations has been in existence for 20 years -- since June 1994 -- when it opened up its national headquarters in Washington, D.C. The group was established as being a part of the American Palestine Committee, an umbrella organization run by then-global Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook, who was based in the U.S. at the time and who now operates out of Egypt as a spokesman for Hamas.
The other members of the umbrella included a Hamas financing wing, Holy Land Foundation (HLF); a Hamas propaganda wing, Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP); and a Hamas command center, United Association for Studies and Research (UASR), which was then led by Ahmed Yousef, who later left the U.S. for Gaza to become Senior Political Adviser to Hamas leader Ismail Haniya.
The founding and current National Executive Director of CAIR is Nihad Awad. Just prior to co-founding CAIR, Awad held the position of Public Relations Director for the IAP. As the propaganda wing of Hamas, the IAP had been involved in distributing Hamas terrorist videos and publishing vehemently anti-Jewish and anti-Israel materials, including the Hamas charter in different languages.
Only months before the creation of CAIR, Awad announced his support for Hamas.
Under Awad’s leadership, CAIR has had a number of representatives cited for terrorist-related activity. CAIR officials have been convicted and imprisoned for terror-related crimes and/or deported from the United States. As well, during Awad’s tenure, CAIR has been cited itself. In 2007 and 2008, amidst two federal trials, the U.S. government named the group a co-conspirator in the raising of millions of dollars for Hamas. The individuals who had been indicted for the trials (CAIR was named an “unindicted co-conspirator”) were found guilty of all charges.
This past Saturday night, Awad was not at his home base in D.C. Instead, he was speaking at a banquet for CAIR’s San Francisco Bay Area (SFBA) chapter. San Francisco was the home of CAIR’s first regional U.S. chapter, established not long after CAIR National was established, hence the California group celebrating its 20th Anniversary.
A second featured speaker at the Saturday banquet was Siraj Wahhaj, the imam of the At-Taqwa Mosque, located in the Bed-Stuy section of Brooklyn, New York. Wahhaj frequently speaks at CAIR sponsored events. Indeed, Wahhaj previously sat on CAIR’s National Board of Advisors.
Wahhaj has been associated with terrorism far beyond his involvement with CAIR.
In 1995, much like CAIR’s trials, Wahhaj was named an “unindicted co-conspirator” for the federal trial prosecuting those involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Wahhaj had been linked to the bombmaker of the attack, Clement Rodney Hampton-El, and during the trial he was a character witness for the spiritual leader of the attack -- the “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman -- whom Wahhaj has openly praised.
Wahhaj has recently taken up the cause of speaking at functions for and doing fundraising for rabid anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan.
Also speaking at the banquet was Nihad Awad’s San Francisco counterpart, Executive Director of CAIR-SFBA Zahra Billoo. Billoo has made a number of extremist statements in the past. She has written that “one amazing reason to get married” is to “raise fighters” (children) to attack the nation of Israel. She wrote that to celebrate Columbus Day is “the same as having Jews celebrate Hitler and the Holocaust.” She refers to U.S. troops as “scum.”
Billoo proudly announced on her blog that her younger brother, Ahmed, was quoted in an article in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal -- an article that discusses in length about how her brother supports suicide bombings. Billoo wrote that she, herself, had thoughts of committing suicide, after she viewed a pro-Israel advertisement on a San Francisco train.
On her Twitter account, Billoo boasted that her CAIR event was sold out, and the pictures taken at it do show a full house. This is a frightening indication that many Muslims in America appear to support and approve of CAIR’s agenda. Certainly given the amount of information available about the speakers at the event, one would be hard pressed to believe that the attendees weren’t at least somewhat aware of CAIR’s terror-related background.
While CAIR has attempted to present itself as a Muslim civil rights organization, the individuals involved with CAIR reveal that the group is cynically exploiting this designation.
The title of CAIR’s weekend event was ‘Rooted in Faith,’ but one has to question what type of faith would have radical luminaries who are associated with terrorism representing it.
Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.
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